A military court has upheld murder and torture convictions against senior security and police officers from Russia's North Caucasus, a rights activist said Friday, in what he described as rare ruling.
A military tribunal upheld the convictions on Thursday "for one killing, the use of violence (and) extortion" in the region of Ingushetia, Pavel Chikov of Agora (Inter-regional Association of Human Rights Organizations) told AFP.
The sentences, which ran to up to 10 years in prison, were against interior ministry officers and an FSB security service officer in Ingushetia, including the head of the counter-extremism centre there.
"Six people received actual jail sentences including an officer from the FSB," while one police officer got a suspended sentence, said Chikov.
"It's the first such sentence concerning senior management in a counter-extremism centre in Russia. And it's the first case over torture in an counter-extremism centre in Russia," he added.
"Up to now, this branch of the interior ministry was considered untouchable," he said.
The officers were convicted of using electric shocks and other torture techniques to force confessions from detainees in the mainly-Muslim region.
One of their victims, a 50-year-old man, suffocated to death during interrogation, the RIA Novosti state news agency reported.
The officers also forced victims to hand over money and even a car by threatening to spread compromising information about them.
A military tribunal in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don threw out an appeal against the sentences for the former officers, first convicted in July.
The head of Ingushetia's counter-extremism centre of the interior ministry received seven years in jail.
One of his subordinates ranked major received 10 years, and an FSB officer in counter-terrorism received a five-year sentence, Pravo.ru legal news agency said.
Chikov said the case was "key for the North Caucasus" because it was the first to involve officers from an "counter-extremism" branch of the police.
The force has been accused of using torture to force people to confess to affiliation or activities with Islamic extremists.
Chikov said the verdict could encourage investigators to launch further probes and Agora would help victims from Ingushetia to sue police and the security service.
An Amnesty International researcher said this month he was abducted and brutally beaten in Ingushetia by men claiming to be from the security service.
They also threatened his family, made him undress in a field and recorded him on video.
Last year reports emerged of gay men being imprisoned and beaten in the neighbouring region of Chechnya. A victim who spoke publicly has reportedly since fled Russia.